Council cuts 90 jobs, The Loft, lifeguards

By , 09/10/2019 18:46

NEWCASTLE City Council has wielded the axe and approved cuts to 90 jobs, The Loft youth venue, city lifeguards and a raft of other services.
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One of the most significant and ‘‘blunt’’ budgets in the city’s history was passed seven votes to six by councillors last night.

The debate became heated at times as Labor and Greens councillors attempted unsuccessfully to wind back some of the more controversial recommendations.

Cr Tim Crakanthorp (Labor) said the council had adopted ‘‘a blunt and illogical budget’’.

‘‘We are cutting some of the most productive, efficient and highly recognised units, not only in this council but across the country,’’ he said.

Cr Lisa Tierney (Liberal) said the cuts were an important first step for the council.

‘‘Councils across NSW are facing a very precarious financial situation,’’ Cr Tierney said.

The cuts were initially proposed after financial modelling revealed the city heading for insolvency and underlying annual deficits topping $64million.

The council will now end financial support for The Loft but will attempt to find a service provider or charity to take over its activities by the end of the calendar year.

Professional lifeguards will not patrol Newcastle beaches on weekends, replaced on Saturdays by volunteers from surf clubs. The summer season will also be cut by seven weeks.

Lord mayor Jeff McCloy said the measures addressed a ‘‘major budget problem’’.

Cr McCloy ruled two amendments that attempted to provide discounted entry to city swimming pools out of order because the council had voted against similar motions within the past three months.

Swimming pool entry fees will remain unchanged next financial year but are set to increase in subsequent years.

Cr Nuatali Nelmes (Labor) also had a motion attempting to save The Loft ruled out of order. About a dozen young people who came to the meeting in support of The Loft left disappointed.

‘‘We don’t seem to be able to have a frank and honest discussion about those services,’’ Cr Nelmes said. ‘‘It is absolutely fair as community representatives that we bring up these issues in the forum that we usually bring them up in.’’

Council acting general manager Ken Gouldthorp said councillors could not propose ‘‘general’’ motions in relation to the budget.

‘‘If you want to provide additional money in the budget to retain services, you need to say how much additional money and where that money is to come from so we can change the document,’’ he said.

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